A couple years ago, about this time of year, I excitedly bought several pumpkins at a farm stand. When we got home, I realized the small pumpkins would line up perfectly in our windowsill. As I placed them there, I had a fleeting thought, “What if some kid grabs them and throws them at our house?” But my admiration of their friendliness and homey-ness quickly supplanted that disturbing vision, and the pumpkins stayed in the windowsill. At least for a little while.

The next morning, the pumpkins were gone.

The good part, I suppose, is that no one threw them at our house. There was no trace of those pumpkins.

Lately, I feel like time is moving in some crazy vortex and leaving me behind. I’ve been caught up in a lot of different things, not all of them pleasant, and suddenly  I find we’re in mid-to-late October…? WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN? The last time I looked, it was late summer. But that does not appear to be the case anymore: it is cold and rainy and I cannot, in fact, remember the last time I actually saw the sun. Today I wore a hat, gloves and a coat (mostly because I was sitting outside all day — such layering would not have been totally necessary for a brief stroll).

Clearly, we are not in summer anymore.

Anywhim, in an effort to actually tune into the world and seasons around me  — and I dunno, maybe appreciate them, rather than just glowering in a dark funk with no sunlight   — I am trying to stop and recognize the positive aspects of autumn. For me, this means: drinking apple cider, making tasty recipes that use squash, and noticing the leaves. It also meant buying a large pumpkin on Saturday.

But now the question is, where to put this friendly pumpkin? It would look nicest on on front steps (that is, if it ever stops raining. and I think it is entirely possible that it may NEVER stop raining). But will someone steal it?

I’ve decided this could be a test. Perhaps the measure of gentrification is how long it takes for your pumpkin to go missing…

The pumpkin test! I will let you know how it goes.


When I started this blog, we lived 3 blocks east of gentrification. Now I would say it’s more like one or two. We’re still the kind of neighborhood where some people plant flowers and others pee on them. But it’s mostly flower-planters, not urinators, that are moving into the neighborhood. And the signs of the gentried classes seems to be getting ever closer.

For instance, a new wine and dessert bar is soon to open soon just five blocks from us!

I’ve joked with my neighbors that I will watch the vagrants’ liquor store on our corner turn into a wine and cheese shop.  Perhaps I’ll be right.

D.C. is getting reading for the big weekend. And it being D.C., that preparation includes a little self-promotion for the district’s favorite issue: D.C. statehood.

These signs are posted all over the place near the convention center, where most of the official Inaugural Balls (the ones with Obama and Biden in attendance) will take place.

Allison Winter

photo: Allison Winter

I guess they think the Mighty Obama crowd, riding the wave of excitement from the Inauguration, might see the signs  and think, “Yeah, sure! We can! Let’s give that little district a vote!”

I periodically get emails from the White House announcing an emergency declaration for some state or county. These almost always respond to some sort of extreme weather event — a flood or wildfire. The emergency declaration helps farmers and other local people apply for federal disaster assistance. It’s usually because something terrible has happened in the place.

So I was amused to see this announcement today:


The President today declared an emergency exists in the District of Columbia and ordered Federal aid to supplement the District’s response efforts in support of the 56th Presidential Inauguration.

So, there is a little concert scheduled for the Sunday before the Inauguration. I recall going to a similar event for the GWBush naug in 2001. Ricky Martin sang and some cool military jets flew over. It was rainy but kind of fun.

I had thought this year’s concert might be a little more high profile, what with all the excitement among artists about Mr. Obama. But since all the focus has been on the swearing-in, I must admit I was hoping the concert would be a not-very-big deal. I thought if it was lower profile, I might have a chance of actually going to it and seeing something. I had visions of walking over after church. Maybe  seeing a military band. One moderately famous artist. A flyover. The president-elect.


I don’t think the Obama people do “not-very-big deal.” It’s not in their repertoire.

Instead, it is an embarrassment of riches.

They released the line-up tonight. Aaaand … we’re talking Bono, people.



But that’s not enough. Oh no. There will also be Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Josh Groban, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, will.i.am and Stevie Wonder. Plus Jamie Foxx, Martin Luther King III, Queen Latifah and Denzel Washington.

Are we missing anyone? Hosting by Angelina and Brad? Maybe a Beatles reunion? I am sure the Obama camp is working on it.

This is getting a little ridiculous, people.

You may have heard that a certain Mr. Barack H. Obama will be sworn in as President of the United States next week. They’re predicting a few (million) people might come to D.C. to watch.

I just found this picture (copied below) of Ronald Reagan’s 1981 inauguration, the first one to take place on the West front steps of the Capitol.  At 55 degrees, it was the warmest January inauguration on record.* (Official weather records go back to 1871.)


I guess it’s a pretty big crowd, but it looks incredibly skimpy compared to what I expect to see next week. And what do I expect to see next week, you ask? See that tan rectangle of the mall in Reagan’s photo? For Obama, I expect it to be completely packed with people watching a broadcast of the ceremony.

I expect a little something like this, but with more woolly hats:

Sebastian Willnow

Foto: Sebastian Willnow

Remember when candidate Obama, “the most famous celebrity in the world,” went to Berlin last summer? His speech drew a gigantic crowd. And those folks did not even have the two-and-a-half months to make travel arrangements that the inauguration go-ers have. Get, ready! Here they come…


*Weather footnote: Reagan wins for warmest and coldest inauguration. The weather, much like the American people, was extreme toward him — love him or hate him. Reagan’s 1985 inauguration was the coldest on record. It was held indoors, and they canceled the parade because it was so cold. I guess they worried the trombones might freeze to the poor kids’ mouths.  On Jan. 20th, 1985, the outside temperature at noon was 7 degrees F. The morning low was 4 below zero and the daytime high was 17 degrees. Wind chill during the afternoon was -10 to -20. brrrr!

I am weary of all the bad news in the world. I desperately want to wake up to NPR saying, “Peace and prosperity has returned to the land!” But that’s not the story they are telling me.

Finding myself despondent this morning, I turned to the Style page in the Washington Post. And proceeded to burst into tears. (Ok, maybe not “burst,” more like “drizzle.”) The Shakespeare Theatre Company is moving their annual summer “Free for All” out of Carter Baron amphitheatre. Instead, they will perform the free play inside their Chinatown theatre in September. I realize this is minor within the scope of the bad news out there in the world. But in these troubled times, I need happy traditions to continue.

It was bad enough when “The Awakening” statue moved to the suburbs. Now Shakespeare has to go inside?

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

I’ve seen every show at The Shakespeare Theatre for the past 7 or so years as an usher or season ticketholder.  Each year, the annual Free for All reprises one of the prior plays for an outdoor production in Rock Creek park. The shows were always different in the park — they had some new staging and often different actors … but the whole quality of the atmosphere was new too. It was wonderful to go out on a warm June night, picnic, then walk through the woods for a little Shakespeare — often with a soft hum of cicadas in the background. I loved that families would come. Mothers would pace in the back, bouncing their babies. Little kids could go run around in the park when they got restless.

It was inviting and enchanting.

For instance, you may recall how much more I enjoyed Jeffrey Carlson’s Hamlet in the park last summer.  Something about his performance in that magical setting won me over.  I loved hearing his speeches outdoors under the excellent canopy of air and stars and trees:

“It goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire — why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours…”

Yeah, when Hamlet’s saying all of that, and you can look up at the majestic starlit sky with him … it really hits home that this man has it bad.

The annual “Free for All” will carry on indoors at the Harman Center for the Arts.  I am sure the productions will be great and have more technical precision, better climate control and be more convenient. I see why it is a good, practical decision for the theatre and their staff.  But “practical” has so little charm.  We get climate-controlled in our cubicles all day.

D.C. has so few magical annual events. I am sorry to lose this one.